Ian Rush says the answer to Liverpool’s striker crisis could be right under their nose

In an incredible career, with two spells at Anfield spanning the course of 15 years, Ian Rush still remains Liverpool’s all-time top goalscorer. The Welshman terrified defences for the Reds in the 80s and early 90s, and he went onto score an unrivalled 346 goals in 660 games.

At present, Liverpool are going through somewhat of a crisis. The influential Luis Suarez packed his bags in the summer to head for Barcelona. His replacement Mario Balotelli has yet to score a league goal. Daniel Sturridge has been out for most of the season – and worst of all, last years runners-up currently sit in 11th place in the Barclays Premier League with just 21 points from 16 games.

We caught up with the Liverpool great Ian Rush – speaking on behalf of 888Sport.com, who are putting betting at the heart of football debate by asking punters to have the #LastWord over their mates by backing their banter with a bet – to get his thoughts on the current striker crisis, whether Raheem Sterling should get a run in the side as the main striker, if Brendan Rodgers’ current criticism is warranted and what his thoughts are ahead of the Liverpool v Arsenal showdown at Anfield on Sunday.

Lets make no mistake about it, Liverpool are massively underachieving this season. Despite an excellent 3-1 win and performance in the Capital One Cup over Bournemouth on Wednesday, Liverpool have picked up just seven league points from their last 21 available, and the Reds’ have made their worst start to a league campaign for 50 years.

But there’s only really one place to start – Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan international scored a phenomenal 31 goals in all competitions for the Reds last term, before earning a £75m move to Barcelona in the summer;

Just how much are Liverpool missing Luis Suarez?

Any team would miss Luis Suarez. Him and Daniel Sturridge were fantastic in attack last season, and any team in the world would miss Luis Suarez.

Do you think Mario Balotelli was the right man to replace Luis Suarez?

Well I don’t think Mario Balotelli was a replacement for Luis Suarez. I think Liverpool were just really unfortunate to have Daniel Sturridge injured. I’m now looking forward to when Sturridge, Balotelli and Sterling are all fit. The only time they have all played together – was when we played Tottenham and won 3-0. They all seemed to blend together, so that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing again. You can’t replace Luis Suarez with just one other player – as he’s so good. The first time I saw Sturridge, Sterling and Balotelli together was at Tottenham – which was our best win – and that’s what I’m looking forward too.

How vital is Sturridge going to be when he returns in the second half of the season?

Well you never know. But him and Luis Suarez were fantastic last season – they probably got 80% of our goals. So when Sturridge does come back, it will be like having a new player. It will be like having a January signing, but what we’ve got to do is keep him fit. He will be hungry because he hasn’t played for such a long time – he will be desperate to get back, and I think he will do very well. It’s just a matter of him settling back into what he done last year. So really what were looking at there is Daniel Sturridge being like our new signing in January, and hopefully he will stay fit.

Are you surprised by Liverpool’s plight this season, after going so close last term?

I think we over achieved last season, everything just fell into place for us. We had that little bit of luck, we didn’t have many injuries and we wasn’t in the Champions League. So we’ve had our bit of luck and you have to be realistic. It’s been an indifferent start to the season for us. We’ve had new players in that have taken time to gel together at the start of the season. Obviously we’ve got to stop leaking goals, I wouldn’t concentrate on scoring goals because I think we can do that, we’ve just got to stop letting goals in. Last season, we were letting goals in, but if we let two in we would score three – this season that hasn’t happened. We haven’t had the luck, we haven’t had the rub of the green this time, we’ve had injuries, we’ve also had the Champions League – so little things like that are the difference from last season to this season.

Raheem Sterling was superb against Bournemouth on Wednesday, do you think he should be given a run as the main striker?

Yeah I think he should, against Manchester United he could have had a hat-trick, and he obviously scored the two against Bournemouth. When you look at it before the Manchester United game, we wasn’t creating any clear-cut chances. Although Sterling missed a few, I’m happy that we are creating chances. With Sterling down the middle with Daniel Sturridge, that’s a good option. He’s very quick down the wings, but when it does click down the middle – and he goes past you – he’s clear on the goalkeeper for a scoring chance. I’ve seen players who like it down the middle as well, and he can do that. With him in the middle, I feel we are creating chances now, whereas in the games against Stoke and Sunderland, we didn’t really create the chances that we needed.

As for Brendan Rodgers, do you feel like the pressure on him is warranted at the moment, and do you believe he’s the right man for Liverpool going forward?

Yeah he’s the right man for the job, he done well last season. We’ve got to stick with him, give him a chance. He’s got a squad there that needs time to gel and that’s what we’re looking to do. He just needs time to come good, and I think we will.

Lastly, what’s your thoughts on the big clash between Liverpool and Arsenal on Sunday?

Well it’s always a good game when we play each other – there’s always goals in it. Last time, we hit Arsenal very early – we were a couple of goals ahead before they realised what hit them. That’s the difference, last season we were starting off early – we scored a lot goals in the first 30 minutes – but this season it’s been a big change. But Arsenal are a quality side, they always did know how to play football, and I think it will be a good test because they always do well. But when they play the top teams they try to keep the ball and fail, but they will be looking to press Liverpool to try and change that – and if they beat Liverpool they will be looking at one step ahead. As for Liverpool, our job is to stay in contention. I think there will be goals in it, and I think if we can get a result against Arsenal, it will put us back on track.

Ian Rush is an 888sport #LastWord ambassador. Join the debate on Twitter @888sport, share your opinion on Facebook.com/888sportfans and read the best analysis on the betting brand’s dedicated blog. Sign-up now and claim £88 of free bets at888sport.com. Liverpool are 15/8 to beat Arsenal with 888sport.com.